Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 November 2018
Although the Greek concept of kairos (καιρός) has undergone a recent renewal of interest among scholars of Renaissance rhetoric, this revival has not yet been paralleled by its reception into the history of political thought. This article examines the meanings and uses of this important concept within the ancient Greek tradition, particularly in the works of Isocrates and Plutarch, in order to understand how it is employed by two of the most important political thinkers of the sixteenth century: Thomas Elyot and Niccolò Machiavelli. Through such an investigation this paper argues that an appreciation of the concept of kairos and its use by Renaissance political writers provides a fuller understanding of the political philosophy of the period.
I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all those who contributed their helpful thoughts and advice to earlier drafts of this paper, especially Richard Bourke, David Colclough, Melissa Lane, and Quentin Skinner, as well as the two anonymous reviewers and the excellent and dedicated editors at Renaissance Quarterly. An earlier and much-abbreviated version was presented at the Newberry Centre for Renaissance Studies Multidisciplinary Graduate Student Conference, 27 January 2012, and I thank the organizers of that conference, as well as all those who contributed questions and comments at that time. Grateful thanks also go to Georgios Giannakopoulos, Simone Noja, and Evangelos Sakkas for their helpful comments on the Greek texts. All translations and originals are from given Loeb editions, except where noted. All italics within quotations are found in the originals.